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Ryder Cup: Sum of all fears for Padraig Harrington

By Karl MacGinty

How many times in recent months have you heard Tiger Woods' 10 wins, 13 losses and two halves in 25 matches at five Ryder Cups dismissed as “modest” or “poor” or “disappointing”?

On the face of it, those figures don't look especially impressive, until you take into account the performance of other American players at the Ryder Cup since Woods made his debut in 1997.

In reality, Tiger's strike rate has been the hottest of any US player in that period. His record of 10 wins is equalled only by Phil Mickelson, who has played 30 matches at seven Ryder Cups.

Since making his debut at Oak Hill in 1995, Mickelson has won 10, lost 14 and halved six of his games, giving him a grand total of 13 points, or two more than Woods from five extra matches.

So in Woods' case, the Ryder Cup numbers usually bandied about by his critics really don't add up. And now that he's slowly regaining form and focus after upheaval in his private life, Woods is an absolute shoo-in for one of US captain Corey Pavin's four wild cards today in New York.

In Europe, the sight of 46-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez pounding out his third victory of the season at Crans-Sur-Sierre on Sunday could not have contrasted more starkly with Padraig Harrington's departure from The Deutsche Bank Championship and the FedEx Cup play-offs the previous afternoon. It would be wrong to paint the cigar-chewing, Rioja-quaffing Spaniard as the ‘Laughing Cavalier' of European golf. Jimenez cares passionately about his game and can be as fiery as that famous curly red hair suggests.

While Harrington these days appears more tangled up in theory than a muddled mathematician — before heading home from America, the Dubliner said he needed to find more trust on the golf course, insisting his golf game was “solid”.

Statistics certainly appear to support Harrington's argument. The US Tour website offers megabytes of information about Harrington's figures for this season and they compare favourably with 2008, when he swept to World No 3 on the back of two Major Championship victories.

What the statistics don't reveal is how far into trouble he hits those wayward tee shots or the number of times he second-guesses himself on the fairway and ends up missing approach shots short — errors which last Friday too often led to bogey and double bogey.

But no matter what statistics suggest about the state of his game, he badly needs a win, fast, if he's to play with confidence at the Ryder Cup.

A Seapoint showdown with Shane Lowry, Damien McGrane and local hero Des Smyth for a fourth successive (and seventh in all) Irish PGA title offers Harrington the best prospect of a sorely needed victory.

In the meantime, the Irishman probably could do no better for himself right now than to lock away his golf clubs for the next few days and go on the razzle with Jimenez.

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